There’s nothing like a slew of Tony Award nominations to catapult a small, little known musical into the big time. Such was the enchanted fate of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder,” a fast-paced romp that captured Broadway’s adulation in 2014.
Without that acclaim, there’d be no way a show with little name recognition outside New York would ever tour to medium sized cities such as Fresno. But that’s the case with “Gentleman’s Guide,” part of the Broadway in Fresno series, which opens Tuesday at the Saroyan Theatre for a two-night run. (This production is the second national tour of the show featuring a non-Equity cast.)
I got to see the original Broadway production, so I can tell you that this strikingly original musical (with book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman and music and lyrics by Steven Lutvak) is clever, silly and tuneful.
For a chance to win a special prize package (a pair of tickets to Fresno’s opening night performance, a meal for two at Cosmopolitan Tavern and free downtown parking), click here to enter our giveaway.
After talking by phone with James Taylor Odom, who plays the leading role(s) in the second national tour, I present to you a list of important numbers to know about “Gentleman’s Guide.”
The number of Tony Award nominations in 2014 for “Gentleman’s Guide.” It went on to win four Tonys, including best musical. (Jefferson Mays and Bryce Pinkham were both nominated for leading actor in a musical, which probably split the vote. Then again, Neil Patrick Harris, a heavy favorite, was nominated for “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” and he won.)
The number of members of the D’ysquith family played by Odom, who is reprising Mays’ role in the second national tour. Those D’ysquiths (pronounced DIE-Skwiths) are eight relatives of Monty Navarro, an heir to a family fortune who sets out to jump the line of succession by murdering the rest. (Trust me, it’s funny.)
Still, the fact that the plot isn’t well-known can be a challenge.
“It makes it a little tough because they don’t know the show,” Odom says of the audience. “It takes them a while to buy into it. But once the first murder happens, the audience is in for the ride.”
The number of seconds Odom has in which to make his quickest costume change, from the character of Lord Adalbert into the Vicar for the next scene.
“It takes a lot of energy to get quickly off and on within 15 seconds,” Odom says. That’s a serious understatement.
The number of dressers backstage helping Odom with those quick changes. Two of them travel with the show, and one is hired locally in each city.
(Fun fact: When the first national tour went out on the road, the actor playing the D’ysquiths, John Rapson, had four dressers to help him. And on Broadway, Mays had five dressers. Odom is proud that he gets the same job done with a reduced staff. “We make it work,” he says.)
Odom’s age when he first remembers falling in love with the mystery series “Sherlock Holmes” starring Jeremy Brett.
“I love all things British as an American kid,” he says. “I grew up admiring Edwardian times. And I was fascinated with PBS mysteries.”
Another favorite of his as a kid was the movie “Clue.” He’d run around his house imitating Tim Curry as the butler.
The number of characters that Odom played in a whimsical little show titled “Murder for Two: The Musical.” One actor played the detective, and Odom played all 13 suspects. (Sounds like good practice, right?) In “Murder for Two,” however, all of his character transformations took place on stage in a split-second. In “Gentleman’s Guide,” full costume changes are involved.
The number of actors (not counting covers and swings) who have been the official “D’ysquith family” on the stage — first Mays, then Rapson, and now Odom. It’s an important break in the career of Odom, a graduate of the Gainesville Theatre Alliance (a bachelor of arts) and the University of Arkansas (a master of fine arts). That exclusivity is special.
“It’s exciting to be doing something that not many people have played before. It’s challenging in one way in that you have the legendary performance of Jefferson Mays. No matter who you are, people will be thinking of that fantastic performance. But I’m also excited by that. This kind of role really fits me like a glove.”
The number of times “Gentleman’s Guide” has played in Fresno before this engagement.
“It will be fresh and new for most people,” Odom says. “Expect a fun, brilliant show that you can laugh at and enjoy.”
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